Over the course of more than a decade a New York federal court clerk illegally referred dozens of criminal defendants to a New York City attorney who paid the clerk tens of thousands of dollars in referral fees since 2011, according to a grand jury indictment on Thursday that charged the pair with bribery of a federal employee and lying to federal agents, among other crimes (DOJ Press Release available here).
When federal agents confronted them about the scheme in separate interviews, they lied about the referrals and the payments, the indictment says, even after the agents warned them that lying to federal law enforcement is a federal crime.
According to the indictment, the clerk would encourage defendants and their family members, who usually could not afford an attorney and had been assigned a public defender at no cost, to retain the lawyer instead. Sometimes the clerk would disparage the public defenders the defendants had already been assigned and tell them the lawyer could get them out of trouble.
The lawyer would pay the clerk between $3,000 and $30,000 for each referral.
The bribery charge carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, the other charges are punishable by up to five years in prison.